The official student news site of Dougherty Valley High School.

The Wildcat Tribune

The official student news site of Dougherty Valley High School.

The Wildcat Tribune

The official student news site of Dougherty Valley High School.

The Wildcat Tribune

Autonomous delivery vehicles sets a future of sustainability and innovation on San Ramon streets

Ella Shen
Polar Lab autonomous vehicles can be seen driving along the Dougherty Valley area with a monitoring bicyclist behind it.

Polar Labs, an autonomous delivery vehicle company, is working with the city of San Ramon to test its robots on the bike lanes.

San Ramon, along with Concord, were the ideal locations for Polar Labs to test their vehicles because of the developed bike lanes that stretch across the city, with the company’s vehicles operating in the Dougherty Valley area for almost a year now. Their goal is to provide delivery services to residential areas from large commercial outlets such as shopping malls and squares across the city.

Rodrick Wui, Senior Civil Engineer at the City of San Ramon, said, “This is the kind of future we want. It will help [San Ramon] and benefit our residents.” Rui, who is responsible for land development and customer service at San Ramon, collaborated with the company after they reached out to monitor their progress through the testing phases.

“From the city’s perspective, our job is to always provide a service to our residents and also for safety,” Wui said.

The city regularly monitors issues and complaints with Polar Lab vehicle interaction with pedestrians or cyclists. The vehicles comply with traffic code laws, fitting under the weight class of being in the bicycle lanes.

“We’re taking it step by step,” Wui said. “There’s always concerns about safety, [but] we get all data every month about how many times there’s an interaction, [and] it seems to be pretty minimal.”

Currently, the company is in its Phase One tests, which involves chase vehicles following every vehicle to ensure the safety and effectiveness of these robots. They expect to continue testing for both Phase One and Two for the next two years, with Phase Two expanding to residential areas.

Before the end of the school year, you’ll probably see autonomous vehicle testing actually going into local roads with other bike lanes, towards the end of the year expanding to crossing major roads.

“Once we know what the demand is, we’ll know how to adjust the signals and so forth to accommodate [Polar Labs],” Wui said.

The Polar Lab robots act like a tool for the last-mile; the ability of these vehicles to reduce car-driving times and carbon emissions supports a more sustainable future for the city.

“It’s a collaborative effort. We’re not pushing them to do it. They’re not pushing us to do it. It’s more exploratory,” Wui commented on the company’s relationship with San Ramon.

While Polar Lab autonomous vehicles are still in their testing phases and undergoing continuous changes, this is not the only presence of public-use autonomous vehicles in San Ramon.

Since April of 2023 Bishop Ranch has been providing regular commuting services with their autonomous shuttles around the City Center and surrounding business areas.

The Bay Area in general has had fluctuating experiences and companies operating their autonomous vehicles. Late last year, Cruise cars—driverless ride hail and delivery vehicles—paused their services in the streets of San Francisco after multiple incidents with traffic and pedestrians.

Yet the rise of Tesla, especially in San Ramon and the surrounding neighborhoods of Dougherty Valley, has become a leading figure of autonomy in electric vehicles; Tesla is offering all current Tesla owners a month of their full-self driving applications.

With Polar Labs initiating new autonomous systems on the bike lanes, San Ramon is embracing innovation and sustainability as its future.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Ella Shen
Ella Shen, Editor-in-Chief
Ella joined the Tribune to improve her writing skills, but stayed for the people, the experience, and the snack cabinet. She was previously photography, multimedia, and managing editor, and is now the co-editor-in-chief. Her goal for this year is to help foster a supportive and fun environment for everyone in the class. Ella enjoys hiking, running, and camping, and wants to hopefully live in a van and go thru-hiking in the future. Her dream for 2 years has been to convert and live in a van... If Ella could be anyone else in the Tribune, she would be Abigail, because she is the most kind and hardworking person she knows.

Comments (0)

All The Wildcat Tribune Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest